The pollution of a West Virginia river from a chemical spill that cut off water for 300,000 people was big news.
But not new news, at least to Native Americans in the state, according to a story by Vincent Schilling at Indian Country Today Media Network.
“Unfortunately, this event is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Chief David Cremeans of the Native American Indian Federation Inc. of Huntington, West Virginia.
The indigenous group, organized in 2001 and recognized by a state senate resolution in early 2002, contains about 6,000 members. About 2,000 of the federation’s members live in the areas affected, Cremeans said.
Pollutants from the Huntington/Dietz Hollow Landfill in Huntington, West Virginia, have been leaching into the water for decades, Cremeans said.
“For the past 35 years, the City of Huntington has been receiving polluted chemicals and carcinogens from dumpsites all along the riverbanks, and when I see this story I really feel sorry for the people affected by this,” said Cremeans. “But this is one chemical and one event that they took great notice to.”
The spill began on Jan. 9 at storage tanks owned by Freedom Industries. According to Schilling’s story, the company makes chemicals for the mining, steel and cement industries.
“I am disgusted by all of this,” said LaVerna Vickers, tribal secretary of the Appalachian American Indians of West Virginia. “We have no idea how this is going to affect the fish or the animals that drink from this water. From a Native American perspective, it is devastating and gut-wrenching. People are just assuming nothing bad will happen, and we are the disposable people here.”
She warned that focusing more on business than on terrestrial health will ultimately prove to be bad for business.
“There is so much about business and not enough about the earth,” said Vickers. “This is a scar on the earth that won’t go away for a long time.”
According to the New York Times, the spill was the third major chemical accident in the region in the past five years.
- Vince Devlin